THE THREE GOALIE ANALYSIS: My Talk With NHL Independent Goalie Scout Justin Goldman About The Isles

UPDATE: Nabokov with a groin injury, as I said last night, and will be out “indefinitely”. That’s about a month for a goalie and a groin.
Ladies and gentlemen, meet Justin Goldman, one of the brighter people I know who scouts goalies and has a real feel for the position himself.
Take it away Justin….

 

Justin Goldman: As a goalie that never played at the pro level before, I never consider myself a goalie expert. But I’ve been blessed with very intelligent vision, and was born with natural goaltending skills that I’ve been honing for 18 years. I have an intimate and unique understanding of the position, both technically and mentally, and have been fortunate to play as high as the collegiate level, despite being born and raised in Dallas, Texas.

Education has always been at the forefront of my life, so I have been writing since age 15. I am a true independent; I built my own company from scratch in 2007 and have been building a reputation as one of the world’s only independent pro goalie scouts since 2009. I currently write for NHL.com and DobberHockey.com, and have also been covering the Colorado Avalanche professionally since the 2006-07 season. I acquired GoaliePost.com over the summer, and as an independent scout, provide goalie analysis and reports for numerous scouting services, websites and radio programs. You can find me on Twitter @TheGoalieGuild and I love hearing from hockey fans!

 

BD: And now zee questions….
How can knee issues and the type of surgeries DP has had affect a goalies playing style? As I broke a few years ago, he actually had to have a corrective surgery on his knee when the first one did not seem to do the trick. How can this affect playing style or the quality of play in goal? If so, can it affect it permanently? 
Biomechanically speaking, strong, flexible knees are essential to successful goaltending. When moving in the crease, power, momentum, and energy is generated from the feet and then radiated throughout the body. If power can’t flow efficiently through the knees, or the knees are not capable of sustaining the strenuous movements that a goalie executes on a daily basis, the goalie is simply unable to perform at their best. Dropping in and out of the butterfly and executing complex recoveries in tight spaces and at fast paces is not easy on the body. Therefore, the knees are one of the main lifelines of a successful goalie. Bad knees lead to bad goaltending. Every goalie is affected differently by knee injuries, so I have no idea of knowing for sure how DiPietro is affected, but they can certainly hinder him permanently.
Are their examples of players who have comeback at a high-level to his type of injuries? What of DP’s recurring issue of swollen knees that came up big two seasons ago, and still came up every-so-often last season? Is this something that will continue, in your opinion? 
Since I’m not a doctor, I can’t answer this without speculating. I can’t think of any goalies that have come back to play at a high level with his type of injuries because I don’t think many goalies have suffered what he has gone through. I also can’t say with any true knowledge whether or not they will continue. But I can say that there’s a reason he is considered injury-prone, and I do think that injuries are possible of happening again at any given moment. He’s risky business.
Have you seen any difference in DP’s style before his plethora of injuries and now? IF so, what is particular strikes you as concerning or comforting?
DiPietro obviously does not have the type of flexibility he used to have. His movements are not as fluid or smooth as they used to be. His recoveries are delayed at times, as he often has to transfer weight with a little more care and caution than before. He can’t dive back behind him on quick back-door plays. His hip rotation does not have the same wide range of movement that it used to have. Not much comforts me about his style, other than the fact he’s still extremely talented and has natural skills despite the injuries. What concerns me the most is the wincing and the visibly labored stretching that occurs after whistles are blown, after pucks are deflected into stands, or following sequences in which he’s forced to put excessive strain on the body. I’m sure Islanders fans have seen this before.
Even when healthy, DP’s Save% and Goals Against have not quite been anywhere near what they were years ago. Is this something that is a concern? 

Of course. But a lot of what he’s doing performance-wise is tied to the team’s play in front of him. It doesn’t take a scout to see that he’s not the same goalie he was a few years ago. Injuries erode a goalie’s ability to move and execute at a high level. DiPietro has suffered from more “erosion” than any other high-level NHL goalie at his age. Between him and Ray Emery, these guys are almost medical miracles in the sense they are still considered two of the top 60 goalies in the world, and still stopping pucks in the NHL.

 

As a scout who has seen a lot of goalies, what is your take on DP’s playing simply gauging the quality of the play, and not worrying about the contract or injury history?

DiPietro is an elite talent when healthy. His natural reactions and footwork is simply outstanding. He has really active hands, he’s one of the best puck-moving goalies in the world, and he’s a battler. He has a positive mindset, he’s mentally tough and he’s capable of stealing wins. It is impossible to not bring the contract and injuries into play, however, because that has a major influence in the emotional elements of goaltending. Every goalie will tell you that the position is mostly mental; what he has gone through would break a normal man’s heart and shatter their confidence. But he never gives up. That is to be commended, and I think most fans should give him credit for not retiring. He is under intense pressure to make up for lost time, and even though his body might not be able to handle it, he still fights. That plays a big role in how he plays in a game, and says a lot about his current situation – he’s still out there. He owes that to the fans and ownership, and they owe it to him to try and cheer him on. It may sound silly, but getting support from the fans goes a long way in helping him.

 

Al Montoya has been one of the better goalies in stats over the summer, and even this season. Is the stats indicative of what you see on the ice by him? Is he approaching the projections and expectations the NYR had originally when he was a prospect? It seemed that he was always a good solid blue chip prospect, and merely got supplanted by Lundqvist in NY and then with Bryzagalov in Phoenix.

Montoya is the type of goaltender that thrives on a heavier workload. The more he plays, the better he performs. When he gets consistent minutes, he’s capable of playing very well because he’s in a good rhythm, there’s no rust, he’s confident, and he’s gaining valuable experience. Most goalies have a tie-in between performance and workload. They need to play in order to play better. Playing intermittently makes life too difficult. While playing in San Antonio (AHL), he was never able to get into a good rhythm because he split time with Matt Climie. Considered as his backup, Montoya struggled to come off the bench and play well. When he got the call from Snow, he thrived due in large part to the consistent starts he received. He blossomed quickly and surprised a lot of people, but he always had that skill-set. He’s a very good goalie that will only get better if he gets some more exposure and some more opportunity.

Nabokov remains as one of the 3rd heads of this goalie carousel. What is your take on his play lately, and do you think he has something to offer other teams vying for the playoffs if the Isles do indeed trade him?
I don’t feel like Nabokov has re-acclimated to the NHL. I think he had a significant adjustment to make due to his time away, his short stint playing on a larger ice surface in Russia, and the fact he’s not familiar playing in the Eastern Conference. To adjust to all of these different elements and still try to play at the top of his game is not easy. There seemed to be a significant amount of rust on his game, and one nagging injury has led to another. It looked like he suffered a pretty significant groin pull against the Canadiens on Thursday night. This is unfortunate, because I know he wants out of this predicament with the Islanders. No goalie likes being in a three-man rotation, so to be blunt, I think the experiment has failed, and it’s time to end it. He does bring a veteran presence to an inexperienced team, which makes him a good fit for the Leafs, but this most recent groin pull could stab out what little value he did have.
The Isles have several in the minor leagues that are potential answers in goal. One who struck me the day he was picked and seems to be panning out exactly how I thought is one Kevin Poulin. Have you seen him play at all, and have any thoughts on potentially what he can be for the Isles in goal on the NHL level?
I was very fortunate to scout Kevin during his first career NHL win in Colorado last year. Being able to cover that game was a real treat, and I still have the official game sheet in my desk because it was a memorable performance. He gave up two early goals, but never wavered, battled hard and came out with an overtime win. I would direct your readers to my scouting report, which can be found here. It includes an audio report and a downloadable game report. He is also ranked fairly high on my Top-150 Prospects Rankings. He could be a long-term starter for the Islanders. I really like how he’s a big body in the net that has a good positional foundation, but still relies on reflexes to make saves. He battles hard. At the same time, fans need to temper their excitement and realize he has a lot of work to do and hopefully he can start to rebound a bit from the scary knee injury he suffered last year.
Additionally, the Isles have Anders Nilsson and Mkiko Kosikinen… have you had a chance to see either, or have any opinion on them?
I have seen both play and they are both awesome prospects. Here is a report I wrote on Koskinen after his first NHL win last year. Nilsson is a hidden gem that exploded in the Elitserien last season, especially in the playoffs. He’s rising fast and he’s a very exciting prospect with a lot of maturity and potential.
As a goalie scout, who would be your money choice the the Isles goalie of “now”? How about the goalie of “future”?

I think the Islanders owe it to DiPietro to give him every chance possible to succeed as the Isles goalie of “now” … while he’s healthy enough to play. There are a lot of politics involved in goaltending, which I’m sure most people don’t really consider, but do know exist. DiPietro’s contract is one of them. He makes too much money and is around for too long to be benched on a consistent basis. He has to play, and that’s why you’ll see some interesting decisions from Jack Capuano, despite the play of Montoya at times.

I think Nilsson has a chance to be the goalie of the future. You can’t pass up giving him an opportunity because Swedish goalies have advantages in terms of their skill level that goalies in North America simply don’t have right now. He has valuable experience as a pro in Sweden and that translates to a guy that displays poise, consistency and confidence. Nilsson should be given a chance to play as much as possible in Bridgeport this year, then maybe fight for a job with the Islanders next year.

 

 

Much thanks to Justin and make sure to follow him on twitter and check out his site: TheGoalieGuild.com and also GoaliePost.com
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About the Author: B.D. Gallof is a published writer and hockey blogger. He writes about Hockey, NY Islanders & the NY Islanders venue situation for CBS New York. BD has been written up in Sports Illustrated, TSN.ca, the NY Times Slapshots blog, Yahoo's Sports and SportsBusiness Journal. He has been a featured blogger for The Huffington Post, as well as owner, lead writer, and managing editor at HockeyIndependent.com.

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  1. Jay Clement says:

    I’ve played hockey with Mr. Goldman and he didn’t play college hockey. He played “club” hockey. Why would he mislead readers about this?

  2. I played ACHA D-II hockey for Colorado State University. CSU is a respected college. Pretty straightforward. It’s not NCAA level, so it is considered “college club” hockey. Sorry I wasn’t more clear, but it was an interview. I didn’t mean to mislead anyone. My bio on my website clearly states where I played, and how I never played at the pro or NCAA level before. And I have no clue who Jay Clement is, so not sure what’s up with that.

  3. b_olton says:

    So…how do we feel about a 4th goalie in the rotation?? LOL